Robyn Autry, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; Hari Krishnan, Professor of Dance; and Francis Starr, Foss Professor of Physics, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Professor of Integrative Sciences, have received the 2023 award for excellence in research.
The awards—going to those who demonstrate excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field—were announced at the first faculty meeting of the year, held in early September.
Autry, recipient of the faculty research prize in the social sciences, is a strong voice in the study of racial identity, Blackness, and the politics of public memory. Autry published Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in the U.S. and South Africa in 2017, exploring the differences between the ways South Africa and the United States have grappled with their histories of segregation and racial violence. She is currently working on another book on artifice and Black beauty.
She is also a prolific writer and has appeared in NBC, MSNBC, The Atlantic, Salon, and Aeon.
“It seems every time I turn on the radio or really pay attention to the news, Robyn [Autry]’s voice is there with its characteristic clarity: its clear parsing of immensely complex social phenomena for the benefit of all of us,” Mary Jane Rubenstein, Dean of Social Sciences, said.
Krishnan, recipient of the faculty research prize in the arts and humanities division, is a well-decorated dancer and scholar. He studies Bharatanatyam, post-colonial, queer dance and film, and contemporary dance from global perspectives.
“Hari Krishnan is a world-renowned dancer, choreographer, and scholarly expert on Bharatanatyam, a classical form of South Indian dance,” Roger Grant said. “His work with Toronto-based dance company inDANCE radically transformed Bharatanatyam by drawing it into conversation with queer and contemporary techniques.”
Krishnan published a book on dance in 2019, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, which won a special citation from the 2020 de la Torre Bueno© First Book Award Committee of the Dance Studies Association. In addition to his award-winning book, his work has also been recognized through several other awards, grants, and fellowships, including the Bessie Schoenberg Choreographic Residency Award (USA), Eramus Mundus Award (Europe), New Pioneer Award for the Arts (Canada), the Desi Canadian Achiever Award (Canada), and the prestigious National Dance Project award.
Starr, recipient of the faculty research award in science and mathematics, has had tremendous impact in the fields of nanoparticles and DNA nanotechnology. Starr’s work explores how nanoparticles can affect and adjust the properties of materials. His early work used molecular simulations to show that small quantities of nanoparticles can alter the structures of some polymers.
“Francis [Starr] demonstrated that certain nanoparticles can alter the properties of polyethylene [plastic] such that it can be broken down more easily. This had provided a novel approach to the recycling of consumer plastic,” said Martha Gilmore, Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics.
Starr has delved into the world of DNA nanotechnology since coming to Wesleyan in 2003—including developing the a groundbreaking model to predict the bonding behavior between DNA nanoparticles. He has used his molecular modeling to contribute to the understanding of the glass transition, finding that molecular motions as seen in glasses are relevant to biological systems like lipids, Gilmore said. Starr has been elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and as a member of the CT Academy of Science and Engineering.
Robyn Autry, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, is a writer and critical sociologist with broad interests in racial identity, Blackness, and memory studies. Her work on the politics of museum development in the US and South Africa has been published in edited volumes and several journals, including Theory & Society and Museum & Society. Her book Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in the US and South Africa compares post-apartheid and post-civil rights museum politics (Columbia University Press). She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Hari Krishnan is a dancer, choreographer, scholar, and educator who specializes in Bharatanatyam and post-colonial, queer dance and film studies in addition to contemporary dance from global perspectives. For over two decades, he trained with hereditary courtesan teachers in South India who were the original repositories of Bharatanatyam. He is also the artistic director of inDANCE, which he founded in 1999. Krishnan’s scholarly repertoire is as extensive as his choreographic one. His research covers historic and sociological themes, from queerness and global cultural politics in dance to the history of devadasi-courtesan dance to representations of Bharatanatyam on film. These themes bleed into his choreography, and vice-versa. His monograph, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam (Wesleyan University Press, 2019) won a special citation from the 2020 de la Torre Bueno© First Book Award Committee of the Dance Studies Association. The book has been hailed as “an invaluable addition to the scholarship on Bharatanatyam.”
Francis Starr, Foss Professor of Physics, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Professor of Integrative Sciences, leads the Starr group, which focuses on the emergent complexity of soft matter physics and biophysics. Starr group combines computational and theoretical methods to explore lipid membranes, glass formation, DNA nanotechnology, polymers, and supercooled water. See the research page for more details. In Prof. Starr’s group, undergraduates and graduates work side-by-side, emphasizing the connections of our work to those of our experimental collaborators. Starr also leads the IDEAS program (Integrated Design, Engineering, Art & Society), which aims to prepare students for real world success at the intersection of design and engineering. He has been awarded over $3.5M in external grants and is the author of ~100 articles.
Photo at the Top: Robyn Autry (left), Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; Hari Krishnan (center), Professor of Dance; and Francis Starr (right), Foss Professor of Physics, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Professor of Integrative Sciences.